Great! - something positive in India!

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Great! – something positive in India!

By Mari Marcel Thekaekara


A group people with different ideas © Inanc Tekguc

Something positive. In the middle of all the negative things, I went to a Vikalp Sangam or ‘Coming together of ideas’. It was a meeting of people who were doing something positive, not just saying how bad the world is.

We were a mixed group: organic farmers, a transgender activist, to adivasis (native, tribal people) and conservationists. The star was Rajiv. He was in a wheelchair with a carer to feed him. Rajiv had a lot of courage and confidence. No-one pitied him. He did not want pity. He completely changed the way we think about disability. ‘What did you eat?’ ‘Did you cook it? Did you make your shirt?’ Of course, we said no. ‘So you are dependent too.’ ‘We are all dependent.’ All 90 people listening felt shock and emotion.

Srinivasan, an expert in waste management told us about solutions to the mountains of rubbish in India. His plan for Zero Waste Management brought many people to clean up their towns and villages to solve the problem. Srinivasan also trains people with rooftop-gardens.

Elango, a local government president, built roads, schools and drains in his area. Then he wondered where all the money went. So he decided to change this. ‘People worked very long days,’ Elango said, but they were still poor. ‘So we stopped worrying about being poor and started to worry about how to bring back money to our villages.’ Elango is now famous for bringing back money. His villages sold rice, dal, peanut oil, soap and many other things. So the local people got more money and relied on themselves.

Meenakshi, an architect from Bombay spent 8 years changing some dry wasteland into the Puvidham School for farmers’ children. Here, they study organic farming and help their parents instead of leaving the village to live in slums in the city. They teach farming, earth construction and craft work. There is a hostel for non-local students. It was very difficult to make this hot, dry land in Tamilnadu green.

Parameshwaran trained as an aeronautical engineer. Then he went back to basics – organic farming, his parents’ old farming practices. ‘I saw farmers forced to follow the seed, fertilizer and pesticide companies. I travelled all over Tamilnadu studying farming. I was lucky Had to study at the famous Nammalwar organic gardening school. Someone asked me for seeds. I gave them seeds. Then I put news on Facebook.’ The rest is history.

‘Many people have land and money but don’t know what to do with it. Now, people want organic food. If you have 400 square feet [37 square metres] of land, you can grow enough vegetables for your family. I want to spread this idea across Tamilnadu. I am working towards that goal.’

Sujata, one of the people who started the Vikalp Sangam told us about what she did in Ladakh. ‘We developed textbooks at the primary level just for Leh district. The textbooks they used had no connection to the life of Leh children in the mountains. They told children to, “save electricity, switch off fans, turn off taps”. How to cross the road safely. There are no fans, taps or roads there! Wildlife education was about tigers, peacocks, lions, in freezing Ladakh! So we wrote textbooks about their lives. Life in a farming village, how to keep your house warm.’

Everyone left the meeting full of energy and ideas. People were finding local solutions to local problems. We exchanged phone numbers and email addresses. Tamilnadu has great new ideas. We can connect, learn from each other. And hope keeps us going.